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Traveling with Teenagers

Teenagers are going through a time in their lives when everything revolves around them, they are hitting puberty, and it takes quite a bit to get them excited about a family trip. You may have to deal with smelly socks from the teenage boy sitting in the backseat, or the teenage girl who spends hours locked in the bathroom. You may just find yourself wondering if it was a good idea to take a family trip during this chaotic, self-absorbed adolescent stage of your teens. You may even ask is it worth all the patience required and money it costs to travel with teens? Well, the answer is a big YES! You children have hit a new stage in their lives, so don’t expect them to be absolutely thrilled to see the Walt Disney princesses at Disneyland, but they will be excited to sight-see other sights around the area that are more suited to them.

The main reason why it is important to travel with your teenagers now, and not wait, is so that all of you can expand and renew the communication lines within the family, and provide a stimulating way to spend time together as a family. After all, your teens are approaching the age where they will leave the nest and venture out on their own, so take advantage of intimate family time while you still have it. Although some teens dread taking a vacation with their family, the majority of them add excitement and energy to all the great activities planned. So, the question is, “How do you travel so that everyone enjoys it and you don’t come home with a head full of gray hair and an unresponsive belligerant teen?” Three basic principles will solve this question. First, you must involve them in the planning of the trip, second plan as many activities that you can that expend energy and burn calories, and third negotiate with your teens.


It is very important to involve your children in the planning of the trip from the very beginning. Find out what they would most like to do and see and do your best to accomodate these requests. Also, if you present several vacation ideas and have them help you make the decision and pitch in with the planning, then they will share the responsibility for the success or failure of the trip. Take advantage of your teens savvy skills in navigating the internet. They are capable of finding fun things to do and see, because there is a plethora of travel related information on the internet. You can also enlist them to go with you to the local library and bookstore. These places are full of guidebooks, magazines, videos, and brochures that are sure to help every member of the family become more familiar with the place you are traveling to. Your children will learn exactly how planning a trip works, along with all of the stresses that come along with it. They will learn geography, how to read maps and guidebooks, how to plan a budget, and what resources are available and where. 

When your kids are younger you don’t have to worry so much about appealing to their interests, but as they approach teenage years, they will have more of an opinion on the destination and what you do there. It is a good idea to plan your trip around what they are interested in. This way, they will stay engaged and connected to the family unit while you are enjoying all the fun activities around you.

Burn Calories!

Energetic, hormone-driven teenagers thrive on daily physical activity. If your teen is interested in football, it might be a good idea to visit a professional football stadium and watch a game. If they are more interested in nature, plan a trip somewhere that provides ample opportunity to hike, mountain climb, mountain bike, etc. Sport’s oriented vacations like these are a great way to channel your teens’ abundant energy, and provide an opportunity to acquire new or refine old outdoor skills, make new friends, and acquire confidence in themselves. They may also think it is pretty cool to teach old mom and dad a few tricks while on the adventure. When you take an active vacation, wonderful things happen to the family unit as a whole. For example, while rock climbing, mom or dad can learn to belay, while teenage son or daughter repels down the mountain. The whole family can go on a bike ride together and experience the challenges and joys that the rough road may present.

On any trip, keep in mind that a tired teenager will be less likely to get into trouble, and you won’t have to worry about his/her wherabouts as much. It is probably a good idea to have your child pooped out inside the hotel, tent, or cabin at night, then wondering where they are at and what they are getting in to. It seems as though, teenagers are easier to get along with after an hour or two of exercise and energy expended.


You don’t have to tailor every activity to your teens interests and needs on the trip, discuss with them the importance of negotiating. If mom really wants to visit the local museum, dad wants to visit the local library, and teen wants to head down to the local teen hot spot, allow each family member to do what they want, but always come back to the family unit. Enjoy each of these activities together. It is not necessary to totally split up and go separate ways. This is an opportunity to get to know each other better. When traveling with a teen it is all about letting them make some of the choices too.

This trip could quite possibly be the best trip your family has taken. It all comes down to compromise and family time. Just because your teen may not want to be seen with you in public at home, doesn’t mean they don’t want to spend time together somewhere else. Take advantage of these years and savor the enjoyment you have as a family.